Cover of book Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin

Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin

by: Paul Cronin

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158 Highlights | 2 Notes
  • “An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.” William Faulkner
    Note: #eq
  • For Herzog, the moment such meditation enters the equation, when he delves too deep and starts explaining himself, imbalance sets in and creativity is forced aside, or at least clouds over.
  • This book is the story of one man’s constant and (almost) always triumphant confrontation with a profound sense of duty to unburden himself, and for that reason alone it’s worth our attention.
  • As David Mamet has written, “Those with ‘something to fall back on’ invariably fall back on it. They intended to all along. That is why they provided themselves with it.
  • an amateur would whine about. (“I’m not into the culture of complaint,” Herzog says. To his fictional son in julien donkey-boy: “A winner doesn’t shiver.” Physicist Lawrence Krauss: the universe doesn’t exist to make us happy.)
  • “I encourage myself, since nobody else encourages me,” he wrote in 1974.
  • There is also Herzog’s own implacable autodidactic nature and knowledge that the entire world is on offer should we be able to muster the requisite excitement;
  • Bildung (self-improvement, personal transformation),
  • After all, as Walter Gropius told us nearly a century ago, “The artist is an exalted craftsman.”
  • Organised religion plays no part in Werner’s life. But the divine and the sacred and the ineffable always have.
  • But he is absolutely unable to explain anything. He knows, he sees, he understands, but he cannot explain. That is not his nature. Everything goes into him. If it comes out, it comes out transformed.”
  • In the poetic Conquest of the Useless, we find this: “If I were to die, I would be doing nothing but dying.”
  • but I do know that a healthy imagination needs space;
  • Anyway, I’ve always been more interested in teaching myself. If I want to explore something, I never think about attending a class; I do the reading on my own or seek out experts for conversations.
  • but the things we set out to learn ourselves – to quench a thirst – are never forgotten, and inevitably become an important part of our existence.
  • There are hidden storms within us all.
  • Beware of useless, bottom-rung secretarial jobs in film-production companies. Instead, so long as you are able-bodied, head out to where the real world is.
  • They have a beautiful expression in Peru: “Perseverance is where the gods dwell.”
  • Real independence is a state of mind, nothing more.
  • How did you lose the weight? It had nothing to do with dieting. Just eat less and move more.
  • I find the notion of happiness rather strange, and do sometimes wonder why I seem to be different from many Americans, who even wrote the “right” to happiness into their Declaration of Independence. It has never been a goal of mine; I just don’t think in those terms.
  • “Aren’t you interested in happiness?” he asked. “NO!” A sense of justice is more important to me, and certainly more valuable than money and acclaim.
  • I try to give meaning to my existence through my work. That’s a simplified answer, but whether I’m happy or not really doesn’t count for much.
  • At the age of fourteen, once I realised filmmaking was an uninvited duty for me, I had no choice but to push on with my projects. Cinema has given me everything, but has also taken everything from me.
  • I’m a brooding, squatting Bavarian bullfrog, a country bumpkin incapable of discussing art with people.
  • Whatever potentially can go wrong will eventually go wrong, and there’s no point in fuming about it.
  • The film is like those moments when you are half asleep in the early morning and a series of wild, uncontrollable things flow through your mind.
  • The Sahara is so unreal it’s like being in a perpetual dream or on another planet. It isn’t merely a landscape, it’s a way of life. The solitude is the most overwhelming thing; a hushed quality envelops everything.
  • photographer Gunther Freyse;
  • An idea comes to me, and then, over a period of time – perhaps while driving or walking – this blurred vision becomes clearer in my
  • Those who read own the world. Those who watch television lose it.
  • We need to learn to adapt our visual language to new and unforeseen situations.
  • would never travel without a book that requires great attention; it becomes my home into which I immerse myself.
  • You need only a good story and guts to make a film, the sense that it absolutely has to be made.
  • Don’t wait for the system to finance such things. Rob a bank if you need to. Embezzle if necessary.
  • The universe couldn’t care less about us, and I hope I never have to call upon it for assistance.
  • His landscapes aren’t landscapes at all; they are states of mind, dream-like visions full of angst, desolation and solitude.
  • He understood language to the point of self-destruction, and I find his attempts to use poetry to hold himself together deeply moving.
  • Take a taxi from the airport into Tehran, and the driver will likely recite Khayyám, Firdusi and Hafez to you.
  • Just as the notion of royalty is meaningless today, the concept of being an artist is also somehow outdated. There is only one place left where you find such people: the circus, with its trapeze artists, jugglers, even hunger artists.
  • Once, after snow had fallen in Florence, a particularly idiotic member of the Medici family asked Michelangelo to build a snowman in the courtyard of the family villa. He had no qualms about stepping outside, without a word, and completing this task. I like this attitude of absolute defiance.
  • “Art” should reveal itself to audiences without written explanation.
  • I like America for its spirit of advancement and exploration; there is something exceptionally bold about the place. The idea of everyone having an equal chance to succeed, no matter who they are, is impressive.
  • The country has always had a capacity to rejuvenate itself, pull itself out of defeat and look to the future.
  • A professional is anyone good at his job.
  • Let’s face it, the world is impossibly risk-averse these days, and panics are almost always completely out of proportion to reality.
  • Wall-to-wall protection is devastating because children are conditioned not to be intrepid; they will never grow up to become scientists who jump across boundaries into the unknown.
  • A civilisation that uses pain relief at every turn is doomed; we can’t know what it is to be truly human without experiencing some level of discomfort and physical challenge.
  • At their heart vampire stories are about solitude. They accumulate in popular culture during times of restlessness, which is perhaps why there has been a recent resurgence of interest.
  • what became evident was that in the turmoil of production I took refuge in language. It has forever been a powerful anchor for me, and I suspect that my true voice emerges more clearly through prose than cinema. I might be a better writer than I am a filmmaker.
  • The Dark Glow of the Mountains
  • “All creative people are insane.” I always felt the man had the wisdom of the snake, sitting there coiled up, waiting for the opportunity to strike.
  • Anyone who labels himself an “adventurer” today is a disgrace.
  • There is a difference between exploration and adventure. I’m a curious person, forever searching for new images and dignified places, but though often given the contemptible tag of “adventurer,” I categorically deny the label.
  • I particularly loathe pseudo-adventurism, where the mountain climb becomes about exploring your personal limits.
  • It’s possible to learn to play an instrument as an adult, but the intuitive qualities needed won’t be there; the body needs to be conditioned from an early age.
  • You would be allowed to submit an application only after having travelled, alone and on foot, let’s say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. While walking, write about your experiences, then give me your notebooks.
  • All that counts is real life.
  • How do you keep your own flame burning? That’s never been my problem, though one simple way is to avoid shooting in studios, which are by definition artificial places.
  • I need people who see and feel things as they are, not someone concerned with creating the most beautiful images possible.
  • If I were to think about my handwriting while writing an important letter, the words would become meaningless. When you write a passionate love letter and focus on making sure your longhand is as beautiful as possible, it isn’t going to be much of a love letter.
  • There is always the potential for a million catastrophes, even failure. People who moan about these kinds of things aren’t suited to this line of business. It’s the very nature of the medium. Your job is to overcome these problems, to cope with the mischievous realities that do everything they can to prevent you from completing your work, to think around corners and respond to unforeseen circumstances. You have to learn how to turn the forces of catastrophe in your favour.
  • As Jeff said during his demonstration, the point of his job is to move beyond the logical and rational. Film might appear to be a representation of reality, but it’s actually a complex illusion.
  • It’s about a way of life, about being bold enough to have the endurance to seize hold of your vision and the excitement that makes film possible, about giving courage to your dreams.
  • a wonderful line from former wrestler and governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura, which serves as a perfect dictum for the Rogue Film School: “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.”
  • There will always be periods of solitude and loneliness, but you must have the courage to follow your own path. Cleverness on the terrain is the most important trait of a filmmaker.
  • Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
  • Learn to live with your mistakes.
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  • Learn on the job.
  • Guard your time carefully.
  • Study how to forge a document.
  • No one wants to interfere with a man in the middle of a fight. Philippe pointed out that the opposite also works, that people won’t bother you when you’re laughing your heart out.
  • I tell the Rogues to read, read, read, read, read. Those who read own the world; those who immerse themselves in the Internet or watch too much television lose it. If you don’t read, you will never be a filmmaker.
  • I tell them to read Virgil, Hemingway, the Codex Regius and Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, which is wonderfully debased, wild storytelling. I recommend the Warren Commission Report, the official government account of President Kennedy’s assassination, an extraordinary crime story with tremendous narrative power and phenomenal, conclusive logic, one of those books that make you rush back home just so you can continue reading. I also suggest a book I discovered fairly recently: J. A. Baker’s The Peregrine, first
  • Everyone ultimately has to create their own list and discover their own intellectual curiosities to dig into, their own Linear B.
  • to be a filmmaker you need to know the heart of men.
  • In such situations the film director has to put aside everything that is explicitly professional and rally every ounce of humanity from within.
  • One way of creating this climate of absolute professionalism on day one, and making it clear to everyone how your set is going to function, is to start filming within ninety minutes of everyone arriving, no matter what.
  • Never delegate decisions down the line to post-production that should be handled on set during filming; by that point many problems can never be adequately resolved.
  • Luther’s translation of the Bible and Livy’s account of the Second Punic War.
  • Maximus is one of my idols, someone who followed a vision no matter what anyone thought of him, who refused to align himself to pre-existing traditions.
  • There is often great frustration in this work. I say this not to discourage anyone; it’s just a way of life. One way to get through it is sheer discipline.
  • Plough on no matter how many spectacular humiliations and undignified defeats you suffer.
  • Learn to overcome your fears and shepherd your project to completion, no matter what.
  • When I think back to my earliest years in this business, I see I am nothing today but a product of my defeats.
  • Writers and filmmakers are all alone; there is usually no one to help you, so just get off your ass and start walking.
  • Most of the time no one cares about what you’re doing, except you.
  • You have made certain choices about your life, which means you need to learn to overcome the despair and loneliness. Stay focused, quiet and professional at all times. Face what comes at you. You can never be irresolute, not for a single second. Plant yourself into the ground and move for no one. Make films only if there is a natural urge within. Switch off your Internet connection and get to work.
  • I lived with very few possessions, most of which were the tools of my trade: an Arriflex camera, a car, a typewriter, a flatbed editing machine, a Nagra tape recorder. My material needs have always been limited. So long as I have a roof over my head, something to read and something to eat, all is fine. I own one pair of shoes, a single suit, and once I finish a book I pass it on to a friend.
  • I’m just a man from the mountains who isn’t very interested in owning things.
  • Permanent connectivity isn’t my thing; I have always needed moments of quiet solitude for myself.
  • Text messaging is the bastard child handed to us by the absence of reading.
  • I seem to be one of the few left who consider discretion a virtue, though we have to be cautious about such things because our sense of what is virtuous is forever shifting.
  • For too long we have been estranged from essential nomadic life.
  • Walking great distances has never been extreme behaviour to me. It has forever helped me regain my equilibrium, and I would always rather do the existentially important things in my life on foot.
  • My voyages on foot – wandering out into the world unprotected – have always been essential experiences for me.
  • Although I never dream at night, when walking I experience exciting voyages into my own imagination, and fall into deep reveries. Rhymes seize hold of me and I’m unable to shake them out of my mind.
  • When you travel on foot it isn’t a matter of covering actual territory, rather a question of moving through your own inner landscapes.
  • Of Walking in Ice is literature created more by my feet than my head, and remains closer to my heart than any of my films.
  • Scream of Stone is my film, though it does contain
  • You can get by with nothing to eat for fifty hours, but water is something else; you have to drink at least a gallon of water a day, otherwise your toes and fingers freeze away.
  • The most important thing to say about editing is that it isn’t a technical process. It comes from something much deeper, from an understanding of the vision behind the images and the story you need to tell.
  • The danger of digital non-linear editing is the ability to create twenty parallel versions of your film, which is a meaningless act. Those who produce such things are irretrievably lost in their material.
  • The way I work is to look through everything I have – very quickly, over a couple of days – and make notes.
  • For all my films over the past decade I have kept a logbook in which I briefly describe, in longhand, the details of every shot and what people are saying.
  • With digital technology, anything mediocre or that detracts from the story is easily junked, and the remaining material melted down to the absolutely vital moments.
  • I can identify the strongest material at great speed, and rarely change my mind once I make a decision.
  • Once we have worked through the entire film, we move backwards; this keeps the material fresh and ensures that only footage of the highest calibre remains.
  • I don’t particularly like confronting my footage alone, and prefer working closely with an editor.
  • At every stage it’s vital to allow the material to take on a life of its own. You might want your children to have certain qualities, but you will never end up with one to your exact specifications.
  • Anyway, I live wholly in the present and really couldn’t care less about posterity. There is only forward.
  • I wanted to explore the idea of what I call “ecstatic truth,” even if it’s a phrase that shouldn’t be interpreted too deeply; everyone should figure it out for themselves.
  • There is a monastery in Rome called the Santissima Trinità dei Monti. On one of the walls of the cloister is a painting of St Francesco di Paola.
  • When filmmakers explore dimensions beyond the so-called “truth” of cinéma-vérité, they are ploughing fertile ground.
    Note: how do things mae you feel? what doescthis photo show you? apart from this subject? what is my pathos? excitement , anger, wandering, solitude, quest for meaning, peace, sadness, ecstasy in nature and climbing, beauty
  • The important truths remain unknown.
  • Facts don’t illuminate. Only truth illuminates.
  • He was never financially dependent on anyone, so could pay for his voyages into the musical unknown.
  • He possessed all the qualities that make America so wonderful: self-reliance and courage, a readiness to take risks, a kind of frontier spirit.
  • he was forever able to bear the misery with great optimism.
  • Dieter had such an impressive and jubilant attitude to life, able to brush his experiences aside and deal with them, never making a fuss. He
  • I say this not because I find onscreen violence a particular danger to our children’s well-being and civilisation in general; it’s just that having to look at such things on screen is my Achilles heel.
  • “I’m no fly on the wall. I am the hornet that stings.”
  • Strange how memory can magnify things.
  • People who have a certain greatness to them are easy to get along with.
  • Whether en route to Santiago de Compostela or at the shrine of the Virgen de Guadalupe, pilgrims on the move are a metaphor for human life.
  • The more technologically advanced your equipment is, the more potential problems there are.
  • What I like about film is that you never immediately know what has been shot.
  • Careful deliberation is required; you have only a few minutes on a single reel to get what you need.
  • Explore Buddhism, but don’t leave your own religion behind.
  • Self-scrutiny is a strong taboo for me, and if I had to stop and analyse myself, there’s no doubt I would end up wrapped around the next tree.
  • Someone told me that everybody who isn’t tied down falls to the bottom of the globe.
  • He found it perfectly logical that we met in Antarctica because it’s where professional dreamers end up.
  • The main producer wanted to shake on it immediately, but I resisted. I prefer the overnight rule.
  • People often throw money at problems, but I have always preferred to use vigilance and flexibility in advance, diffusing situations that have a tendency to become problems.
  • To answer your question, art doesn’t make a difference until it does.
  • Never, which is probably why I have achieved certain things. I’m aware that I possess an almost absurd self-confidence, but why should I doubt my abilities when I see all these films so clearly before my eyes?
  • Anyone who raises children has at least as much courage as someone who follows his “destiny,” whatever that means. It’s an utterly pretentious word.
  • There is nothing wrong with hardships and obstacles, but everything wrong with not trying.
  • I don’t do anything on anyone else’s terms and have never felt the need to prove anything.
  • I have never relied on anyone to find me work. The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion.
  • I basically have tunnel vision, and when working on a project think of little else.
  • I work steadily and methodically, with great focus. There is never anything frantic about how I do my job; I’m no workaholic. A holiday is a necessity for someone whose work is an unchanged daily routine, but for me everything is constantly fresh and always new. I love what I do, and my life feels like one long vacation.
  • Of course I feel pain. I just don’t make a fuss about it.
  • I was intrigued by him from the start of our conversations, not least because he was a circus performer before he became an archaeologist, someone able to walk parallel paths.
  • In the film he talks about “living your dash”, the dash between the dates on your gravestone, everything from the time you’re born to the moment of your death.
  • Delbert reminded me that family loyalty is a priceless gift, that a parent must never abandon their child no matter what, that a parent’s primary duty is to stand up to injustice on behalf of their child.
  • I feel most comfortable when it comes to physical contact, to being able to handle rolls of unexposed celluloid or a camera I can balance on my shoulder, to landscapes where I can touch the ground or grapple up a mountain or climb through the trees and vines of a jungle, where I can drive through the sand dunes of a desert or steer a boat through raging rapids.
  • You can quantify certain events – such as the number of accidents and fatalities every year – but how can you quantify things that haven’t happened?
  • I’ve never been ambitious for anything, be it a career, social status, wealth or fame; none of those things have ever particularly impressed me. In fact, I find the very idea of ambition completely foreign. It has always been noticeably absent in my thinking and actions.
  • You do your work, I do mine, then we collide again. It would be a triumph of everything pedantic about the world if we met regularly.
  • a perfect film doesn’t exist.
  • I travel on foot, I stage operas, I raise children, I cook, I write.
  • The miracle at the heart of his films is mankind’s relentless struggle to find meaning, despite the indifference and hostility of the universe.
  • I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature.”
  • He is fascinated by the dark side of life, and recognises the universe is a deeply inhospitable place, and that to imagine otherwise is foolishness.
  • Werner has a unique way of answering questions, without pretence or worries about the possible reception of his words. He speaks his mind directly and to the point.
  • Herzog’s prose book Of Walking in Ice